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Russia warns against actions that 'inhibit peace process' in Syria amid looming Turkish offensive

Iran, Russia and Turkey have engaged in several talks on Syria [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 October, 2019

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Russia warned against derailing the Syrian peace process on Tuesday, amid fears of a loom Turkish operation in the war-torn country.

Russia's security council said on Tuesday it was important to avoid hindering the peace process in Syria, following discussions with President Vladimir Putin, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

The influential council discussed the creation of a constitutional committee in the country and "remarked that at this stage everyone should avoid any actions that can inhibit the peace process in Syria," he said.

Peskov said earlier on Tuesday that Russia "is following very closely how the situation is developing" and was not informed about the withdrawal of the United States from the region - something that has sparked fears of a Turkish attack on Kurdish forces.

"We still don't know which troops are being withdrawn, in what amount, and whether they are being withdrawn at all," Peskov said. 

"There have been various announcements about withdrawals from different parts of the world which later were not confirmed."

The US White House announced on Sunday that American troops will be withdrawn from a crucial area of the Turkey-Syria border, seemingly giving a green light for Turkey to conduct long-planned operations inside Syria against its Kurdish foes.

Read more: Worse than 1975: Trump's cynical betrayal of the Kurds

On Tuesday, Turkey said it was ready for an offensive into northern Syria as US President Donald Trump was giving mixed signals after the decision to pull back US "special operators" who acted as a buffer on Syria's northern frontier.

The Turkish president has repeatedly threatened to attack Kurdish militants in northern Syria due to their ties with separatists in his own country.

"All of the preparations for an operation have been completed," the Turkish defence ministry tweeted, hours after US forces withdrew from the border area.

Erdogan had earlier said the operation could come at any moment "without warning".

Trump's move was seen by critics as an abandonment of Kurdish forces which had been the key US ally in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group.

But there was confusion later on Monday when Trump tweeted that he would "obliterate" Turkey's economy if it went too far.

Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay responded to Trump's threat on Tuesday, warning that "Turkey is not a country that will act according to threats".

"As our president always stresses, Turkey will always set its own path and will take matters into its own hands," Oktay said in a speech in Ankara.

Turkey says it wants a "safe zone" along northern Syria to act as a buffer against Kurdish forces and also allow the return home of up to two million Syrian refugees.

It has previously launched two cross-border offensives against IS in 2016 and the YPG in 2018, with the support of Syrian rebels.

Russia is a principal ally of the Syrian government in the conflict and has been involved in the fighting since 2015.

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